4 minute read


Supporting Team Members Through Trauma and Turbulent Times

By Julius E. Rhodes, SPHR

IT IS HARD TO BELIEVE that we are in the second half of the year and that so much has happened. If you are like me, you entered 2021 with some trepidation as a result of the unprecedented global pandemic, social protests, and political upheaval that seemed to never end. But there were also some rays of hope. An effective vaccine was developed for the coronavirus and we generally felt good about the prospects of a return to a pre-pandemic way of life. Employers also began to have team members return to the workplace after many months of remote work.

As I write this column, we are seeing a spike in the number of COVID cases brought about by the Delta variant, there is talk about the need for a booster shot to help address rising COVID cases, and many team members have expressed their desire to not return to the five-day workplace many left. As a result, we are all struggling through some traumatic times that are the result of unabated stress that has continued for an extended period of time. Not only that, but there does not appear to be an end in sight—at least not in the short-term. So, what are we to do? Well, let’s begin by defining trauma, its relation to stress, and how we can help support our team members at this time.


The term trauma is used to describe an event that is experienced as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening, overwhelms our ability to cope, and has lasting adverse effects on a person’s mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual wellbeing. The important things to keep in mind when dealing with trauma are the Es: events, experiences, and effects. We all are aware of the events that have taken place the last 18 months and possibly the effects they might have on ourselves and our team members. However, it is the experiences that get to the emotional aspects of our ability to accept or reject the things that affect our lives that must be accounted for. As Dale Carnegie famously said, “People are not creatures of logic but creatures of emotion.” While I dislike using absolutes in this case, I will say that everyone has suffered and even those who will say they are fine are definitely not the same people they were 18 months ago. Stress, from a definitional standpoint, is a perceived imbalance between what is asked of us and what we think we can accomplish given the availability of resources. Unabated stress leads to longterm effects that cause the trauma we are experiencing now and, unfortunately, in the future.

The Bright Side

There is a bright side: We have the opportunity to look towards a brighter future and it comes in the way we view history. If we take the traditional western view of history as linear, we will continue to move forward in a position where we do not learn from the past. I believe the way to move forward is to take the eastern view of history as circular and understand what can we learn from the past so we continue to ascend. We must learn to grow through tough times and not just go through tough times because nothing is

As Dale Carnegie famously said, “People are not creatures of logic but creatures of emotion.”

“Parking is only part of the journey. By designing an enriched pedestrian experience, we ultimately create a better destination.”

- Shruti Namjoshi, Watry Design, Inc.

forever. We have seen bleak moments before, and if we approach things with discipline, intentionality, and effort, we will see the crest of a new and brighter dawn.

Offering Support

As employers the following are some things, we must do to support our team members through this difficult period of trauma and turbulence: ■ Provide opportunities for team members to check in, not about work but about their lives. ■ Remember it’s not enough to provide support team members can access. You must publicize them on a continual basis and encourage team members to take advantage of them. ■ During times of trauma many people retreat into a shell and although they may appear fine outwardly, they are often dealing with a sense of fear and a perception of helplessness, and their ability to think rationally is often made more difficult. As employers and peers, we need to help them see a sense of connection to others and meaning in the work they do.

The Three Rs

Help them understand the importance of the 3 Rs: resilience, reconnect, and reintegrate.

When most people talk about resilience, they do so in terms of the ability to bounce back quickly from an adverse situation. When I talk about resilience, it is a vigorous approach to life. Don’t make people feel there is a ticking clock on when we expect or require them to be back to normal.

People who take a vigorous approach to life during times of trauma and turbulence can be supported in their ability to reconnect and reintegrate into a more stable routine if they understand and take advantage of the supports that are available to them, internally and externally.

We need to be able to process trauma, which means not questioning why something happened. Rather, we need to understand how we move forward from trauma. Notice, I said how do I or we move forward and not how do I or we move on? ◆

JULIUS E. RHODES, SPHR, is founder and principal of the mpr group and author of BRAND: YOU Personal Branding for Success in Life and Business. He can be reached at jrhodes@mprgroup.info or 773.548.8037.